Lobbyist pressure focused on watering down anti-spam bill

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
The introduction last spring of Bill C-27 — the Electronic Commerce Protection Act — represented the culmination of years of effort to address concerns that Canada is rapidly emerging as a spam haven. Industry Minister Tony Clement's anti-spam bill has steadily made its way through the legislative process, with the Standing Committee on Industry likely to conduct its final "clause by clause" review over the next two weeks.
Although support for anti-spam legislation would seemingly be uncontroversial, my weekly technology law column notes that various business groups have mounted a spirited attack against the bill, claiming requirements to obtain to user consent before sending commercial email will create new barriers to doing business online. The Conservative MPs on the committee have remained supportive of the bill, yet Liberal MPs have expressed growing concern about some of the bill’s provisions.
A close examination reveals that the bill sets reasonable limits for online marketing consistent with laws found in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. In fact, there are four major caveats to the consent requirement.
First, the bill includes a business-to-business exception so that businesses that send commercial email to other businesses are immediately exempt from the need to obtain consent.
Second, the bill only applies to commercial email. Non-commercial email between friends, family, and colleagues is excluded.
Third, a wide range of business-to-consumer commercial email is also outside the ambit of the bill. For example, businesses can rely on "implied consent" to contact existing customers for a full 18 months and even contact non-customers who merely make an inquiry for six months. In other words, simply inquiring about long distance plans or hotel room availability opens the door to six months of electronic messaging under the guise of implied consent.
Fourth, all other commercial messaging to consumers is permitted — there are no limits — so long as the business has obtained prior consent. There are some form requirements, but nothing that should be considered particularly onerous.
Notwithstanding the implementation of similar opt-in systems elsewhere, some Canadian businesses argue that obtaining prior consent is problematic. Click here to read the whole of Michael's post.

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